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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, on the latter point, any of them would be delighted to do so. On my noble friend's first pointI shall call her my noble friendthe time taken for ambulances to arrive here is monitored on each occasion. I understand that it is approximately 12 minutes, on average. Obviously, ambulance personnel should know where to come and someone should be there to guide them to the right place. I shall ensure that that is done.
Lord Addington: My Lords, what is the position of Members' staff, advisers and researchers? How do they fit in? Does the House have any official responsibility for those people, who after all allow us to function?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, if they are employed by the House, they are covered by the health and safety at work regulations, which is more than can be said for your Lordships, who are of course not employed by the House. To that extent, cover is provided for the staff rather than for us. I imagine that those who are not employed by the House would fall under the category of third parties. It is a requirement under the regulations that those in control of premises should take reasonable care to ensure that those premises are safe for third parties.
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, does the noble Lord not consider the average time of 12½ minutes that it takes an ambulance to get here rather long? After all, St Thomas's is just the other side of the river; one can see it easily from here; and, on average, one could bicycle there in half that time.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, UK oil production peaked in 1999 and is beginning to decline. Most producing oilfields, including Forties and Brent, are below their peak levels. Government and the industry are actively engaged in maximising economic recovery of hydrocarbons, including by application of enhanced oil recovery techniques. Such techniques
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. Will the Government ensure that more public attention is given to the current work that he mentioned? Given the production peak offshore and the increasing dependency on overseas oil and gas supplies, will the Government support greater investment and endeavour in order that we maximise the United Kingdom energy yield?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree with everything that the noble Lord said. There has been work on all the technologies for many years. The zero emissions technology group is working continually on environmental risks, economics, legal issues and international co-operation. For many years, because of lower energy prices, many attractive techniques have simply not been economical.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the injection of CO 2 into suitable depleted reservoirs of oil can enhance production by some 10 to 15 per cent, as has been demonstrated in the United States and Canada? Does he not agree, therefore, that that could be linked with the development of plants for clean coal technology improvement with CO 2 extraction, thus contributing to the long-term benefits of the coal and oil industries?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, again, I agree with all of that. The Government are keen on CO 2 injection. For that reason, we announced in the last Budget a 70 per cent tax relief on enhanced oil recovery using CO 2 injection in petroleum revenue tax areas, and 40 per cent elsewhere. So, we are giving fiscal encouragement. As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, will recognise, there are legal problems. There is the question whether the use of CO 2 injection or CO sequestration techniques conflict with international conventions on dumping waste at sea.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that oilfields normally peak in their first three or four years, but then continue in production for at least 20 years? Are the Government making arrangements to ensure that as much oil as possible is saved?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have before me a table of all the oilfields and their production since 1975. I shall spare the House my reading them out. Although it is technically possible to continue to extract oil for many years after the peak, it is not necessarily economically worth while.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of the impact of the 10 per cent supplementary charge, announced in the 2002 Budget, on the producers of oil and gas on the United Kingdom continental shelf? I wish to know, in
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, issues of past taxation policy are not relevant to the Question on enhanced oil recovery. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, will be aware that we have been encouraging further exploration. For example, in the last Budget we increased first-year capital allowances from 25 per cent to 100 per cent. We have also abolished the royalty on the older fields.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, will the Minister enlarge on his reference to the sequestration of CO2? Is there not international agreement that sequestration of CO2 under sea is environmentally desirable and acceptable, far from being a dumping of toxic waste?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I wish that that were the case. I agree that there are many advantages of sequestration, which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, pointed out, both in where the CO 2 comes from and where it goes to. Integrated gasification combined-cycle technology, which is the technique referred to, has considerable advantages. But, although it may not be a welcome fact, there are claims that, under the London Convention and the Ospar Convention, they constitute dumping waste at sea. Certain legal issues must be sorted out.
The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has announced, after considering alternative venues, none of which was suitable for the very large numbers of people involved, that approval has now been given for the use of Hyde Park for this rally. The Government never banned the march. Our concern has been about the safety of those taking part in a rally in Hyde Park that would continue after dark and where the ground conditions are far from ideal. The Royal Parks and the police will now work closely with the rally organisers to ensure as far as possible the safety of those attending.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his congratulations. Star Trek is held in tented accommodation, so it is covered. Although it is very popular, the number attending is not 400,000, which is the number projected by the organisers of the CND demonstration on 15th February.
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, a spat arose after the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said, quite rightly, that large numbers of people in a park at this time of year would cause damage. There is no criticism of that. But why was she pushed front stage on the issue? Would it not have been a better strategy of damage limitation for the Government if the Home Secretary had taken all the opinions, including that of the noble Baroness's colleague, and kept her in the background? She has enough to contend with at the moment without having to be criticised on that matter.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am always grateful to the Liberal Democrat Front-Benchers for advice on damage limitation. Responsibility for the Royal Parks is a matter for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. She is perfectly willing to take the difficult decisions needed on such issues. She can certainly find enough time to do so.
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